September 1, 2021

Explaining commonly confused terms in senior care with Pam Swanborn

The world of long-term care can be daunting and confusing to navigate, especially for those who are new to it. What is Home Health? How does that differ from Home Care? How is a Home Care aid different from a Home Health nurse? Does my loved one need Palliative Care or Hospice Care? What do the acronyms PT, OT, SLP, and MSW stand for?

In the following Q&A, Kline Galland’s Administrator of Community Based Services, Pam Swanborn, breaks down a few often-confused terms: Home Health vs. Home Care and Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care.

Can you define Home Care and Home Health?  

Home Care is a service that provides personal care assistance to individuals in their home. Some examples include help with dressing, bathing, meal prep, medication reminders, errands, light housekeeping, companionship and memory care. Home Care is provided by nursing assistants and is generally a private pay service (though it is sometimes covered by long term care insurance). 

Home Health is a service covered by insurance that provides in home visits by nurses or other trained professionals, including Physical Therapists (PT), Occupations Therapists (OT), Speech Language Pathologists (SLP), Medical Social Workers (MSW), and bath aides, as directed by a physician.

How are Home Care and Home Health the same? How are they different?

Home Care is solely for personal care services and is provided by nursing assistants that are not under the direction of a physician. Home Care is not a full-time service and is typically provided for several hours at a time.

Home Health is prescribed by a physician and provided by licensed, skilled clinicians such as nurses, PTs, OTs, SLPs, or MSWs. The person receiving care must meet the criteria of being “homebound,” meaning it’s difficult to leave their home without difficulty. These visits are roughly 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.

Who benefits most from Home Care? Who benefits most from Home Health?

Home Care benefits those who are looking for help with their personal care needs, often referred to as Activities of Daily Living (ADL). Usually, Home Care provides additional support to a family member that is keeping a loved one safe and supporting their daily care needs.

Home Health is helpful for individuals recovering from illness and/or injury who need short-term medical care in their home. The goal of Home Health is to enable the patient and/or their caregiver to learn how to best manage their health needs so they can maximize their function and independence.

Can you define Palliative Care and Hospice Care?

Palliative Care is a broad term that refers to care that takes a holistic view of achieving comfort when an individual is faced with a life-limiting illness. An individual may receive Palliative Care from a team that ensures all aspects of their health and comfort are addressed, even while they continue to seek curative treatment. At Kline Galland, our Palliative Care team consists of MSWs who help individuals identify their goals of care as they navigate the complexities of living with a chronic, life-limiting illness. Kline Galland Palliative Care may consist of one focused visit to help do this goal setting and identify appropriate resources or may be several visits over the course of several months. 

Hospice Care is a form of Palliative Care that is recommended when an individual is approaching their final phase of life (generally within 6 months of passing) and has chosen to stop seeking curative treatments. Hospice Care focuses on maximizing quality of life by providing symptom management and pain control. Hospice team members visit the patient in whichever setting they reside to address all aspects of symptom management and coach and train family members and caregivers to support their loved ones. Hospice Care does not provide around-the-clock hands-on care.

How are Palliative Care and Hospice Care the same? How are they different?

First, I’d like to point out where they are similar. Both of these services focus on alleviating discomfort, and Palliative Care is often a bridge to transitioning to Hospice Care.

Palliative Care is typically for those with a life-limiting illness but who are not yet ready for hospice. It is an adjunct service to traditional care and is not covered by insurance.

Hospice Care is for those that have a prognosis of 6 months or less and elect to not seek curative treatment. Hospice Care is covered by insurance and covers medications and treatments related to the hospice prognosis, as well as all the visits provided by the team. Hospice Care also provides bereavement services for 13 months following the loss of a loved one. This includes outreach from Kline Galland’s bereavement coordinator, calls, mailings, and limited in person or telephonic counseling services. Individuals can choose to come off hospice at any time if they wish.

Who benefits most from Palliative Care? Who benefits the most from hospice?

Those who benefit most from Palliative Care are individuals and their families who are struggling to determine goals of care as they approach end of life.

Those who benefit most from Hospice Care are individuals facing end of life, and their loved ones.

When you are making important decisions for yourself or your loved ones, it’s critical to understand the landscape and feel confident with the terminology. That’s why Kline Galland created its Senior Care Resource Line as a no cost, no obligation, no hassle community service. Regardless of your question, we’re here to help you navigate the full spectrum of available senior care offerings.

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